Whilst Sturt and kindred bold spirits had been painfully but surely piecing together the geographical puzzle of the south-east corner of the Australian continent, a similar struggle between man and Nature had commenced in the south-west. Here, Nature kept close her secrets with no less pertinacity than in the east; but, though the struggle was just as arduous, the environment was very different. Instead of rearing an unscalable barrier of gloomy mountains, Nature here showed a level front of sullen hostility. Nor did she lure the first explorers inland with a smiling face of welcome once the outworks had been forced, as she had drawn Evans when he reached the head-waters of the Macquarie and Lachlan. Beyond the sources of the western coastal streams, she fought silently for every eastward mile of vantage ground, spreading before the adventurous intruder the salt lake and the arid desert.

As far back as 1791, George Vancouver, a whilom middy of Cook's, discovered and named King George's Sound, when in command of H.M.S. Discovery. He formally took possession of the adjacent country, and remained there some days, making a careful survey of both the inner and outer harbours.

On the 9th of December, 1826, Sir Ralph Darling, then Governor of New South Wales, sent Major Lockyer, of the 57th, with a detachment of the 39th, a regiment intimately associated with the early settlement of Australia, to form a settlement at King George's Sound, where they landed on the 25th of December of the same year. This settlement was established in order to forestall the French, who, according to rumour, intended to occupy the harbour and adjacent lands.

On the 17th of January, 1827, Captain James Stirling, of H.M.S. Success, left Sydney, intending to survey those portions of the west coast unvisited by Lieutenant King, and also to investigate the nature of the country in the neighbourhood of the Swan River with a view to its suitability for settlement. Stirling was accompanied by Charles Fraser, who had considerable experience as adviser upon Australian sites for settlement. Both Stirling and Fraser reported favourably on the Swan River; and the latter waxing enthusiastic on its eligibility, it was decided to found a new colony there.

In 1829, Captain Fremantle of H.M.S. Challenger hoisted the British flag at the mouth of the Swan River, and thenceforth the whole of the Australian continent was under British sway. Captain, now Lieutenant-Governor, Stirling arrived a month later in the transport Parmelia, and the free colony of Western Australia was launched on its varied career.

The names first mentioned in the annals of land exploration in Western Australia are those of Alexander Collie and Lieutenant William Preston, who together explored the country on the coast between Cockburn Sound and Geographe Bay. This was in November, 1829, and in the following month Dr. J.B. Wilson, who came to the Sound with Captain Barker on the abandonment of Raffles Bay, made an excursion from the Sound and discovered and named the Denmark River.

In a passage in a letter written by R.M. Davis, of the medical staff, to Charles Fraser, the botanist, there is a detailed reference to this trip: -

"Dr. Wilson, who came here with Captain Barker, started in a direction to Swan Port (Swan River) with a party of men, and in eleven days went over at least two hundred miles of ground. He says, without fear of contradiction in future, that there is far greater proportion of good land in this direction than in any other part of Australia that he had been in, and also wood of large growth, with innumerable rivers. He ascended a very high mountain, which he called Mount Lindsay, in honour of the 39th regiment."

On the 22nd of March, 1830, we first hear of the exploring feats of Lieutenant Roe, R.N., the Surveyor-General of the new colony. Captain John Septimus Roe was born in 1797, and entered the navy. He accompanied Captain P. King to explore the north and north-west coasts of Australia, in 1818, and was a member of King's expedition in 1821. He was the first Surveyor-General of Western Australia, and held that position for forty-two years. He is commonly styled the father of western exploration. He died at Perth on May 28th, 1878. Mrs. Roe, who accompanied her husband to Western Australia in 1829, pre-deceased him in 1870.

On the date mentioned in 1830, Roe was in the field exploring in the vicinity of Cape Naturaliste. Afterwards he was active in the country between the head-waters of the Kalgan and Hay Rivers. In 1836 he first tried serious conclusions with the inland country of Western Australia, when he headed an expedition to explore the tableland that lies to the north and east of Perth. The country was dreary and depressing, and, judging from its configuration and natural properties, he was unable to recommend it as a site for settlement or to depict it as the entrance to more pleasant lands beyond. He reached Lake Brown, near the western boundary of the present Yilgarn goldfield; but the only noteworthy features that he perceived were the salt lakes that are now so well-known throughout Western Australia. In 1839, Roe distinguished himself by rescuing Grey's dismembered party. On the 14th of September, 1848, he started to make an attempt at further discovery to the eastward. He had with him six men, twelve horses, and three months' provisions. Upon leaving the outer settlements, they encountered the same depressing country as before. Having crossed it, they were turned from their course by scrub of exceeding density, which in turn was succeeded by sandy desert plains. Foiled for the time being they made for the south coast, where they recruited their strength at one of the outlying settlements.

On the 18th they started again, and followed up the course of the Pallinup River. They ascended a branch coming from the north-east, and for a time revelled in the spectacle of well-grassed and promising valleys; but they soon again came amongst the scrub and sand plains of the inland desert. Sighting a granite range to the eastward, they made towards it, but the outlook from its summit brought nothing but exceeding disappointment. Fortunately the weather was showery, and the lack of water did not induce such keen anxiety as the total absence of grass. Still pushing to the eastward, they found their difficulties increase at every step. To the perils of travel through dense thickets and over barren, scorching plains, there was now added the risk of death from thirst. It was not until after days of extreme privation that they reached some elevated peaks, where they obtained a little grass and water.

Their course lay now to the south-east, towards the range sighted by Eyre, and named the Russell Range, and there commenced a desperate struggle with the intervening desert.

So weak were the horses and so compact the belts of scrub, that in three days they had traversed only fifty miles. After being four days and three nights without water for the horses, they reached a rugged hill which they named Mount Riley, where they were relieved by a scant supply. Thence it was but fifty miles to the Russell Range, but the journey involved a repetition of the worst sufferings they had endured. The scrub disputed their passage the whole route, being often so dense as to defy the use of the axe, and many long detours had to be made before they reached their goal.

Every hope they had entertained of a change for the better was shattered by an inspection of the country to which they had so laboriously penetrated. The range, destined to be associated with so many subsequent important explorations, was a mass of naked rocks, and from the summit they could see nothing but the interminable scrub thickets, and in the distance the thin blue line of ocean. Fortunately they found a little grass and water, which saved the lives of their animals. They had discovered a coal seam at the mouth of the Murchison River, and now, on their return journey, they found another at the Fitzgerald River. This was Roe's longest and most important expedition, and it placed him in the front rank of Australian explorers.

Amongst the very early explorers who did as good work as the scanty opportunities permitted, was Ensign R. Dale, of the 63rd Regiment, who pushed east of the Darling Range. Bannister, Moore, and Bunbury are other noteworthy names amongst those of the early discoverers.


In 1837 an expedition in charge of Captain George Grey and Lieutenant Lushington was sent out from England to the Cape of Good Hope. It was under instructions from Lord Glenelg, and was to procure a small vessel at the Cape to convey the party and their stores to the most convenient point in the vicinity of the Prince Regent's River on the coast. Once landed there, the party was to take such a course as would lead them in the direction of the great opening behind Dampier's Land, where they were to make every endeavour to cross to the Swan River.

The schooner Lynher was chartered at the Cape, and on the 3rd of December, 1837, the party was landed at Hanover Bay, with large quantities of livestock, stores, seeds, and plants. Whilst the schooner proceeded to Timor for ponies, Grey employed the time in forming a garden, building sheds for the stores, and in exploring the country in the neighbourhood of Hanover Bay. On the 9th of December, he hoisted the British flag and went through the ceremony of taking possession. On the 17th of January the Lynher returned, and nearly a month later Grey and his party, which now numbered twelve, started from the coast with twenty-six half-broken Timor ponies as baggage-carriers, and some sheep and goats.

The rainy season had now set in, and many of the stock succumbed almost at the outset, whilst their route proved a veritable tangle of steep spurs and deep ravines. On the 11th of February they came into collision with the natives, and Grey was severely wounded in the hip with a spear. When he had recovered sufficiently to be lifted on to one of the ponies, a fresh start was made, and on the 2nd of March his perseverance was rewarded by the discovery of a river which he named the Glenelg. He followed the course of this river upwards, and reported the country as good, being well-grassed and watered. Sometimes his route lay along the river's bank; at other times by keeping to the foot of a sandstone ridge he was enabled to avoid detours around many wearisome bends.

The party continued along the Glenelg for many days, until indeed they were checked by a large tributary coming from the north. As both the river and the tributary were here much swollen, they had to fall back on the range. It was among the recesses of this range that Grey discovered some curious cave paintings of the blacks, in which the aboriginal figures were represented as clothed.

[*Footnote.] A subsequent photograph of these paintings, by Brockman, is reproduced in Chapter 20.

Unable to find a pass through the mountains, and enfeebled by his wound, Grey determined to retrace his steps. As a last resort he sent Lushington some distance ahead, but there was no noticeable change to report in the aspect of the country. Hanover Bay was reached on the 15th of April. The Lynher was waiting there at anchor, and H.M.S. Beagle was lying in Port George the Fourth, awaiting the return of Captain Stokes, who was away exploring the coast. The party having embarked, the Lynher sailed for the Isle of France, where they safely arrived. Thus ended Captain Grey's first expedition, which is interesting chiefly as a proof of the heroic qualities of its members; for the Glenelg River has never invited settlement, and has yet to prove that it possesses any considerable economic value.

During January, 1839, Grey explored the country between the Williams and the Leschenhault, while searching for a settler who had been lost in the bush.

On the 17th of February in the same year, Grey, who had been back endeavouring to persuade Sir James Stirling to assist him in his explorations, was enabled to start on another exploring enterprise. The object of this, his second important expedition, was to examine the undiscovered parts of Shark's Bay, and to make excursions as far inland as circumstances permitted. The party comprised four of the members of his first expedition, five other men, and a Western Australian aboriginal, and they left Fremantle in an American whaler, taking three whale-boats with them. They were duly landed at Bernier Island, where their troubles commenced at once. The whaler sailed away, taking with her by mistake the whole of their supply of tobacco. There was no water on the island, and, in their first attempt to start, one of the boats was smashed and nearly half a ton of stores lost. The next day they succeeded in making Dorre Island, but that night both the remaining boats were driven ashore by a violent storm. Two or three days were spent in making good the damage, when they succeeded in making the mainland, and obtained a supply of fresh water. They had landed at or near the mouth of a stream which afterwards proved to be the second longest river in Western Australia. Grey named it the Gascoyne, and found that it was then dry beyond the limit of tidal influence. They then pulled up the coast, but one night, when effecting a landing, both boats were swamped, and their previously-damaged provisions suffered another soaking. This accident kept them prisoners for a week till the wind and surf had abated. Tired, hungry, and ill, they were here harassed by frequent threats and one actual attack by the blacks. A slight break in the weather tempted them forth once more, and, having succeeded in righting the boats, they made for the mouth of the Gascoyne, where they re-filled their water-beakers. On March 20th they made a desperate effort in the teeth of foul weather to fetch their depot on Bernier Island. We may picture their dismay when they found that during their absence a hurricane had swept the island, and scattered their cherished stores to the four winds.

Their position was now as desperate as could be imagined: the southerly winds had set in, and they had to coast along a surf-beaten shore against a head wind. Their food was scanty, and they were weak with the constant toils they had undergone. There was nothing for it, however, but to put to sea again, and they succeeded in reaching Gantheaume Bay on the 31st of March. Fate had not yet spent all her wrath on them, and in attempting a landing, Grey's boat was dashed to destruction upon a rock, and the other received such a buffeting as to place it beyond repair. The only hope of safety lay in an overland march to Perth, three hundred miles away, upon their twenty pounds of damaged flour and one pound of salt pork per man; and yet, so wearied were they with the unceasing battle against wind and sea, that they even welcomed this hazardous prospect as a change for the better.

They had not proceeded far before differences of opinion arose. Grey naturally wished the men to cover the ground as quickly as possible whilst their strength lasted, whilst they favoured slow marches, relieved by frequent rests. Grey, who recognised that in their weakened condition they could not replenish their scanty food supplies from the native game, held firmly to his opinion, and made strenuous efforts to quicken their progress; but the comparative safety of the shore had lulled his followers into a feeling of false security; and after goading them along for a hundred miles, bearing the chief burden of the march and sharing much of his scanty food with the black boy, Grey left them to push onwards, and if possible send them assistance. He took two or three picked men with him, and after terrible sufferings and privations, reached Perth, whence a rescue party was immediately despatched. This party found only one man, Charles Wood, who by more closely following Grey's instructions, had made better progress than the others. The remaining five could not be found, and at the end of a fortnight the rescuers were forced to return on account of the lack of provisions. Roe immediately left with another party, and, after experiencing trouble in tracking the erratic wanderings of the unfortunates, came upon most of them hopelessly regarding a face of rock that stopped their march along the beach, unable to muster sufficient strength to climb it. They had then been three days without water, having nothing in their canteens but a loathsome substitute.

One of them, Smith, a lad of eighteen who had accompanied the expedition as a volunteer, had died two days before the rescue; his body was recovered and buried in the wilderness. Walker, the surgeon and second in charge, was still absent; but he had voluntarily left the main body and had pushed on for assistance towards Fremantle, which he safely reached.

During these unfortunate expeditions, Grey had shown a generous spirit of self-sacrifice combined with high courage and a fine enthusiasm for geographical discovery. But his lack of experience and his ignorance of the local seasonal conditions counterbalanced these, and explained his failures. Afterwards he became Acting Government Resident at Albany, on King George's Sound, and he was at a critical period Governor of South Australia. But Australia proper saw little of him in his after prime, and his fame was built up elsewhere, in New Zealand and at the Cape of Good Hope.

Grey's reports left doubt as to the precise value of the country he traversed under such trying circumstances, but he is justly credited with the discovery of many rivers on the west coast - the Grey, the Buller, the Chapman, the Greenough, the Arrowsmith, the Hutt, the Bowyer, and those important streams, the Murchison and the Gascoyne.


In 1846 we come upon a name destined to become linked with the history of exploration in most parts of Australia. There were three notable brothers of the name of Gregory; but as their expeditions, at least those of Augustus and Frank, were conducted independently, with the exception of the first, we shall deal with them separately. H.C. Gregory, it is true, associated his work mostly with that of his brother, A.C. Gregory, generally in a subordinate position, but Frank Gregory won nearly equal fame with his brother Augustus as an independent explorer.

A.C. Gregory was the son of Lieutenant J. Gregory of the 78th Highlanders. He was born at Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire, in 1819, and came to Western Australia with his parents in 1829 in the Lotus, 500 tons, Captain Summerson, the second passenger ship that sailed for Western Australia. Lieutenant Gregory had five sons in all: William, Augustus, Francis, Henry, and James. The Lotus reached Fremantle about the 10th of October, 1829. Captain Gregory had been obliged to retire from active service, being incapacitated by serious wounds received at El Hamed, in Egypt, and held a large grant of land from the Imperial Government in lieu of pension. On this grant, situated not far from Perth, he established a farm, and on that farm Augustus and his brothers received the balance of their education and underwent their course of bush training. Augustus, after his last expedition, was appointed in 1859 Surveyor-General of Queensland, in which colony he settled down later, after retiring from active official life. He had a seat in the Legislative Council, and was a prominent freemason. He was created C.M.G. in 1874, and K.C.M.G. in 1903, and had several honours conferred upon him by the Royal Geographical Society. He died in Brisbane, in 1905.

If we except a short excursion down the Blackwood and Kojonup Rivers, his expedition of 1846, in which he was accompanied both by F.T. and H.C. Gregory, was the first important enterprise undertaken by him. It was in August that his party left Captain Scully's station at Bolgart's Springs, about seventy miles from Perth.

On leaving the settled districts they at once found themselves in the barren country that was damming back the eastward flow of settlement. Having traversed it, they reached a range of granite hills, and turning more to the northward, they kept along these for the sake of the rain-water to be found in the rock holes. On striking again to the east, they encountered an extensive salt lake, and in attempting to cross an arm of this marsh, their horses were bogged, and extricated only after great labour. The lake was afterwards proved to be of great size, and to hem them in completely to the eastward, whilst, owing to its crescent-like formation, for five days it baffled all their attempts to proceed northwards.

Finally abandoning the lake, which they called Lake Moore, they turned to the westward to examine some of the streams crossed by Grey during his return from Shark's Bay. On the head of one of these rivers, the Irwin, they found a seam of coal.

"Having pitched our tent and tethered our horses, we commenced to collect specimens of the various strata, and succeeded in cutting out five or six hundredweight of coal with the tomahawk, and in a short time had the satisfaction of seeing the first fire of West Australian coal burning cheerfully in front of the camp, this being the first discovery of coal in Western Australia."

The party then returned by way of the Moore River to Bolgart Springs, which they reached on the 22nd of September.

The discovery of coal deposits and of country available for settlement was seen to be of great importance by the Government, and Lieutenant Helpman, A.C. Gregory, his brother Henry, and Messrs. Irby and Meekleham, in the colonial schooner Champion, were despatched to procure a quantity of coal for testing. They were also instructed to make a further inspection of the pastoral capabilities of the district, of which there had been so many conflicting opinions. A three days' examination of the country convinced them that it was suitable for settlement.

In 1846 Gregory took charge of an expedition to the north of Perth, organised by the settlers of the colony, and entitled The Settlers' Expedition; its object being to proceed to the Gascoyne River, examining the intervening country as to its suitability for pastoral purposes.

Gregory was accompanied by one of his brothers, Messrs. Burges, Walcott, and Bedart, and private King of the 96th Regiment, of whose services he speaks very highly. This expedition excited great hopes amongst the settlers, who found most of the horses and provisions. The party left Lefroy's station of Welbing on the 9th of September, with ten pack, and two riding-horses, but did not succeed in penetrating any distance beyond the Murchison, being turned back at all points, after repeated efforts, by the belt of impervious scrub between the Murchison and Gascoyne. They therefore returned without seeing the latter river, after having attained a distance of 350 miles from Perth; but they succeeded in finding a considerable extent of available country, both pastoral and agricultural, and in discovering a vein of galena on the Murchison. They re-entered Perth on the 17th of November.

The following month, Gregory, Bland, and three soldiers of the 96th accompanied Governor Fitzgerald by sea to Champion Bay to examine the new mineral discoveries. The galena lode was found to be more important than had been at first supposed. On their return to the schooner, an affray occurred with the natives, in which the Governor was wounded.

"As the country was covered with dense wattle thickets, the natives took advantage of the ground, and having completely surrounded the party, commenced first to threaten to throw their spears, then to throw stones, and finally one man caught hold of Mr. Bland by the arm, threatening to strike him with a dowak; another native threw a spear at myself, though without effect; but before I could fire at him, the Governor, perceiving that unless some severe example was made, the whole party would be cut off, fired at one of the most forward of our assailants and killed him; two other shots were fired by the soldiers, but the thickness of the bushes prevented our seeing with what effect. A shower of spears, stones, kylies and dowaks followed, and although we moved to a more open spot, the natives were only kept off by firing at any that exposed themselves. At this moment a spear struck the Governor in the leg, just above the knee, with such force as to cause it to protrude two feet on the other side, which was so far fortunate as to enable me to break off the barb and withdraw the shaft. The Governor, notwithstanding his wound, continued to direct the party, and although the natives made many attempts to approach close enough to reach us with their spears, we were able by keeping on the most open ground and checking them by an occasional shot, to avoid their attacks when crossing the gullies."

The natives followed them for seven miles, but finally desisted, and the whites reached the beach and boarded the Champion without further mishap.

In 1856 Gregory made his most celebrated journey in the north of central Australia. An account of this journey might have been included in Part 2, but as the name of Gregory is so intimately connected with Western Australia, this section is perhaps the most appropriate place in which to recount its incidents. [But its lengthy place in which to recount its incidents (sic)]. But its numerous details demand another chapter.